Remember Who We’re Dealing With, Here-A Few Iran Links

Via Via Media:

Original WSJ piece here.

Al Jazeera English

Walter Russell Mead:

‘…the WSJ also reports that Iran sent to Russia 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium this week. That will, the story notes, reduce Tehran’s capacity to make nukes and it has strengthened America’s position.’

A lot of American leverage was sacrificed for this deal, and now the same ends, however idealistic (this blog thinks somewhere between peace activism and vague promises of humanitarian intervention), will likely be pursued by the current U.S. administration.

The White House’s page isn’t exactly reassuring.

John Kerry, a little while ago:

‘Let me underscore that. The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran nonstop — and you can bet that if we see something; we will do something.’

Mead again:

‘The Iran nuclear deal is the foundation stone of President Obama’s Middle East policy. He has paid an immense price for the deal at home and abroad. The highest price, moreover, has been paid by the hundreds of thousands dead in sectarian strife and the millions forced out of their homes in Iraq and Syria as the U.S. avoided any actions in those countries that might have threatened Iran’s willingness to sign on the dotted line.’

It’s quite likely many of the deeper reasons for Western confrontations with a nuclear-seeking Iranian regime have been pushed out and/or will spill out into other conflicts and challenges as we move forward.

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution On The Iran Deal

The classical liberal/libertarian law and economics thinker is not on board.  In fact, the title of his piece is: ‘Obama’s Disastrous Iran Deal.’

As I see it, what much opposition to the Iran deal boils down to is this:  The Iranian regime is full of people so untrustworthy that good faith dealing with them is nearly impossible, if not actually impossible.  This was a supremely difficult task with a LOT of downside risk involved and opportunity costs to boot.

The Obama administration’s claim has heretofore been:  It’s this deal or war.  A kind of determined, defiant, activist peace-dealing has reigned, along with the usual political rhetoric and freezing-out of people who think differently.

Many people with dogs in the hunt are not on board with the deal.  The major ones being a Republican-controlled Congress, many Americans keen to our security interests, a vast majority of Israelis, as well as most all of the Saudi kingdom (Sunni, oil-rich, and which funds its own Wahhabi terrorism, and which is right next door to its bitter foe).

The devil is in the details, and if the details don’t sufficiently address why a nuclear-armed Iran is so bad, why lifted sanctions empower a laundry-list of anti-American and anti-Western security interests (Putin especially, and the old Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance), Hizbollah and Hamas terrorists, destabilizing Shia militias and Revolutionary Guard activity, then the deal won’t achieve what it claims to be able to achieve.

The logic has pretty much remained the same and this is why I’m generally in the opposition:  Short of maintaining sanctions, threats of force or other punishment, short of war or some other potential confrontation, the Iranian regime and many of its people will likely get deliverable nukes, and nearly no outcome of this fact will likely lead to greater peace, cooperation, and stability in a volatile region, nor in the world.

Pretty strong language out in the public square from Epstein:

‘This agreement does not require detailed study to conclude that it is a dead loser. Nonetheless, the United States has put it forward in the United Nations for approval before Congress has spoken, and the President, incorrigible as ever, has announced that he will veto any Congressional legislation that seeks to block the treaty. Many members of his own party do not share the President’s unfailing instinct for self-destruction. They should join the Republicans to reject the treaty by veto-proof majorities in both houses before the President and his team can do any further harm. ‘

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘More Good News From The Middle East’

Full piece here.

What good news?:

‘What if the deal goes down in flames despite all we do? What if the Iranian regime is incapable of saying “yes” even to a fawning U.S. proposal—what if it, too, is under-institutionalized, vulnerable to the mystical whim of one sick old man? What if Obama smokes out the mullahs and forces them to admit that, yes, they seek nuclear weapons? What then?

How could this be good news? It will be good news because it will finally clarify what the real choices have always been. It will shut up all the half-brained pundits who have been telling us for years that an Iranian nuclear arsenal is deterrable, so why all the fuss? (To his credit, President Obama has been wise enough to reject this notion.)

With so much good news out there from the Middle East, I can barely wait for tomorrow’s headlines. But patience, patience.’

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Is liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead?…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Inside Everyone Is A Western Individual Waiting To Get Out?-Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Some Saturday Iran Links

Stephen Schwartz, via the Center For Islamic Pluralism, is not happy about the deal nor the Syrian part of the equation:

The White House celebrates an Iranian “interim nuclear deal” that, like the Syrian chemical weapons deal, ignored Iran and Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria. Predictably, Al-Assad was thrilled by the outcome of Iran’s Geneva performance. Al-Assad, official Syrian media crowed, “saw that Iran’s achievement will reflect on Syria due to the strategic relation between the two countries. President [Hassan] Rouhani, for his part, reaffirmed Iran’s standing by Syria.”

Perhaps it’s safe to assume that Putin’s going to do what’s best for Putin, Assad for Assad, and Rouhani and the mullahs for Rouhani and the mullahs.  These are people with whom we can barely do business, if at all.

Walter Russell Mead and his staff remain skeptical.  Remember, this deal is a first tentative step in which the Iranian regime will be expected to meet many conditions.  What have they sacrificed so far?

‘As it stands, Iran looks to be emerging from the sanctions saga with the upper hand. Its influence is spreading and its clients succeeding, from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Foreign Minister Zarif is currently on a tour of the Gulf, looking to expand that clout by mending and strengthening financial links and touting Iranian diplomatic prestige. This is not the behavior of a country that has just ruefully acquiesced to western demands.’

One of the more positive pieces I could find comes from Foreign Affairs.   What needs to be done in the meantime if the deal’s going to survive?:

‘Washington must therefore convince the Gulf States that it is committed not only to halting Iran’s nuclear program but also to containing Iran’s principal means of projecting regional influence through asymmetric operations. This would likely take the form of intelligence collaboration and prosecutions that target the Gulf operations of Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah and military units such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — both of which engage in violence, subversion, and terrorism outside Iran’

A lot of leadership, diplomacy, and engagement are required.

Addition:  It’s easy to envision many ways in which this will break-down into a much more volatile and difficult situation for our interests.

From The NY Times: ‘Deal Reached With Iran Halts Its Nuclear Program’

Full piece here.

The Iranian regime says it will stop enrichment beyond 5%, and dissolve uranium enriched to 20%.  Click through for details.

‘The freeze would last six months, with the aim of giving international negotiators time to pursue the far more challenging task of drafting a comprehensive accord that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.’

I suspect John Kerry and his connections had a fair amount to do with the deal.  Back-channels are usually key to these kinds of deals.

Iran gets $6 to $7 billion in relief on economic sanctions which have hobbled the economy (and these people are dealers).  The regime will presumably continue its aims of regional hegemony through all the other means available, including terrorism.  It’s kind of a thugocracy. These may still not be the kinds of people we can do business with:

But some experts, including a former official who has worked on the Iranian issue for the White House, said it was unlikely that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ever close the door on the option to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, they said, any initial six-month agreement is more likely to be followed by a series of partial agreements that constrain Iran’s nuclear activities but do not definitively solve the nuclear issues.’

Cautious optimism?

Have we really brought the regime in from the cold and enticed it through realpolitik carrots and sticks into lawful obligations?

Cynical skepticism?

Will the thugocracy continue to nod towards its lawful obligations while getting ever closer to deliverable nukes, proving we may have lost more than we’ve gained in this process?

What about regional stability with the Saudis & Israelis especially, but Hezbollah, Syria, the Russians and that ever dangerous Shia/Sunni split.

This rogue blogger’s proud of seeing the Brzezinski/Scowcroft connection.  See the previous post.

Addition:  Is there even a deal that reaches beyond the sticking point of the right to enrich at all?

Another Addition:  It’s hard to see how very much has changed at all in the region, now that this piece of paper has been signed, and it’s a little mystifying to think of the time and energy that’s gone into it, and how little the Iranian regime can be trusted, and how little we’ve gained.

This blog doesn’t remain cynically skeptical, it remains wisely skeptical, and watching closely to many of the same dynamics as before.

What has Iran gained?  John Bolton:

‘First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear-weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing; weaponization research and fabrication; and its entire ballistic missile program)

Second, Iran has gained legitimacy

Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions

We’re playing with fire here, and with decisions that could affect us for generations to come.

Addition:  From the Jerusalem Post, it’s looking like the right to enrich uranium in the first place is a sticking point.  The clock is ticking, and many costs have already built up. Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Some Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

To a certain extent, the current administration has invested in the realpolitik of liberal internationalist policy-makers like Samantha Power, who promised the U.S. will not cut a bad deal with Iran at the U.N. (I’m aware that it’s just the U.N.).

Yet, such realpolitik often has roots in a base in Western Left-Of-Center, anti-war, pro-peace, human-rights activism.

John Kerry, as Secretary Of State, felt the need to dust-off his anti-war protester credentials in order to placate Code Pink while offering opening remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on potential military action in Syria.

Code Pink!:


Naturally, this base to which Obama appeals is torn between their ideals and action. After all, how does one achieve ‘peace and transparency’ with heavy use of drone strikes, ‘kinetic military action’ in Libya, and potential wars in Syria and Iran?

One answer is by making ourselves very small, and by achieving any gains in a circumscribed manner, with constant appeals to international rules and coalitions which may or may not exist as we’d like them to.

In other words, we’re pulling out of the region. We’re leaving it up to them, but we are open to making deals with even the worst regimes as long as they say they might be interested in peace and negotiations.   Even then, we’ll be reluctant to use force or the threat of force, sacrificing much of our leverage for minimal gains and potentially empty promises.

You’ll recall we made a deal with Assad (not reassuring to most Syrians nor other leaders in the Middle-East), assisted by the  opportunistic, undemocratic, thugocratic leader of Russia in order to squeeze out of a tight-spot we didn’t necessarily have to be in (Syria was always tough, but that particular spot…wasn’t good strategy to say the least).

Feel free to highlight my ignorance, but it’s worth keeping in mind as deals with Iran are discussed:

Walter Russell Mead:

‘The details of the deal aren’t publicly available at this point, but the broad outline seems to involve Iran freezing certain nuclear activity while gaining access to up to $50 billion in frozen funds’


‘Past administrations have generally concluded that the price Iran wants for a different relationship with the United States is unsustainably high. Essentially, to get a deal with Iran we would have to sell out all of our other regional allies. That’s not only a moral problem. Throwing over old allies like that would reduce the confidence that America’s allies all over the world have in our support. But there is also a question as to whether Tehran can actually impose a Pax Iranica on the neighborhood. If the US steps out of the picture, and the Turks, Kurds, Gulf monarchies and Israel are all determined to balance against Iran, we could see the region becoming even more unstable and warlike than it already is.’

Basically, there are few good options with Iran, but nearly all the options are worse with a nuclear Iran.   The Sunni-led Saudi regime is already looking towards Pakistan for nuclear capabilities to counter.  You know, Pakistan, the failing-state which keeps everybody up at night because its nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

The view from Jerusalem is different:  They don’t trust the Iranians, and may soon make other security arrangements as well:

‘Exactly 10 years ago, on October 21, 2003, the so-called Troika of the European Union (the foreign ministers of the UK, France and Germany: Jack Straw, Dominique de Villepin, Joschka Fischer) together with the leaders of Iran issued the “Tehran Declaration.”

The leader of the Iranian delegation with whom the Troika “claimed a diplomatic coup” (George Bush, take that), was “tough but fair to deal with,” Jack Straw recently said.

The name of that negotiator? Hassan Rohani.’

How is any of this leading to more peace?

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

Addition: Of course, this implies that the 60’s activist, Left-of-Center, civil-rights crowd and political coalitions they’ve cobbled together currently running our government are racking up bills which are going to come due.

Related: So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments.

If only we could break through the hard-line, repressive, Islamist thugocracy down to the pragmatic, pro-democratic Green thinking, this would be a masterstroke, went the current and perhaps wishful thinking.

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’

Adam Garfinkle piece here.  Materialism and Leftism…I’m an amateur still: Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize IranMichael Totten Interviews Rick Francona At World Affairs: ‘From Saigon to Baghdad’

Via The NY Times: ‘Former Defense Secretaries Criticize Obama On Syria’

Full piece here.

“Iran is paying very close attention to what we’re doing,” Mr. Panetta said. “There’s no question in my mind they’re looking at the situation, and what they are seeing right now is an element of weakness.”

At the center of the liberal internationalist foreign policy team Obama’s leaning on is a serious lack of strategy and leadership.

Enough said.

Related On This Site:  A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Why Obama Should Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Program’

Full piece here.

An analysis of where Iran has been heading for the last few years…and to some extent, where the U.S may be heading as regards Iran?:

‘The closer Iran gets to acquiring nuclear weapons, the fewer options will be available to stop its progress. At the same time, Iran’s incentives to back down will only decrease as it approaches the nuclear threshold. Given these trends, the United States faces the difficult decision of using military force soon to prevent Iran from going nuclear, or living with a nuclear Iran and the regional fallout’

Some of the logic is inherent in the situation, but I’m still skeptical of the idea (isolationism is strong at the moment) that we should involve our military for years to come and in unforeseen ways (we’re doing so now according to universalist, humanitarian principles ((addition: In Libya and Uganda))).  We have been hoping that the current regime would fail from within.

Victor Davis Hanson says that Obama will have real incentive to take action given the dismal state of the economy and his record (many Republicans will approve and Democrats are in disarray).  Is that too partisan or simply cool analysis?

What about WMD?  Are the costs of military action now worth the potential risks down the road?

Related On This Site:   Sunday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. MillFrom Foreign Affairs: ‘The Problem With Obama’s Decision To Leave Iraq’

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